Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

June 26, 2013

TN clinics served with subpoena in meningitis outbreak


CROSSVILLE — Specialty Surgery Center of Crossville has been served a subpoena for records related to tainted medication from a drug compounding firm blamed for a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak.

Also served with subpoenas were St. Thomas Outpatient Neurological Center and PCA Pain Clinic, the Tennessee clinics that received medications from the New England Compounding Center.

The subpoena  requires each clinic to turn over documents in its possession that could shed light on allegations that its patients received injections of tainted medication that led to serious illness. The subpoenas seek information about contaminated methylprednisolone acetate (“MPA”) and also seek information about other potentially contaminated medications, including cardioplegic solution (used during heart surgeries) and ophthalmic (eye) solution believed to have been provided to patients in Tennessee.

The subpoena originated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which is overseeing the consolidation of most cases in federal and state court alleging personal injury or wrongful death as a result of the contaminated injections. The subpoena was issued by attorneys working in conjunction with a seven-member plaintiffs’ steering committee appointed by the court to initiate, coordinate and conduct all pretrial discovery of plaintiffs in all actions pending in that court. The purpose of the subpoena is to investigate facts material to ongoing proceedings in the consolidated cases in Massachusetts, and does not necessarily indicate wrongdoing on the part of the clinic. 

The Tennessee clinics were three of many clinics nationwide identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as having purchased and administered vials of contaminated MPA that were produced by New England Compounding Pharmacy, Inc., (“NECP”) of Framingham, MA. The CDC has reported 152 cases, including 79 cases of fungal meningitis infection and 15 deaths, linked to the tainted compound in the state of Tennessee alone.

The subpoenas require these clinics to produce for examination or copying, documents and communications between the clinic and NECP, including information reflecting purchasing decisions, items purchased, dates, quantities, pricing, storage of the medication and more.

According to J. Gerard Stranch IV, an attorney with Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC, this subpoena signals the next step of an ongoing investigation of the role clinics played in the distribution of contaminated medication.

“We believe the information we receive from St. Thomas Outpatient Neurological Center (and its related affiliates), PCA Pain Clinic, and Specialty Surgery Center will help us understand how the outbreak of fungal meningitis infections occurred,” Mr. Stranch said.

The outbreak of fungal meningitis infections is the worst such outbreak in U.S. history. The CDC has recorded more than 700 infections nationwide, and has not ruled out the possibility that this number will continue to grow.

As a result of the large number of actual and anticipated civil lawsuits arising from the outbreak, NECP filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United State Bankruptcy Code, in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Massachusetts Dec. 21, 2012. On Feb. 12, 2013, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered the consolidation of all federal cases in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.

On April 9, 2013, the Hon. F. Dennis Saylor IV, presiding United States District Court Judge, appointed the plaintiffs’ steering committee, of which Thomas M. Sobol, an attorney with the firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, is lead counsel. Stranch and Mark Chalos of Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein, LLP are Tennessee-based members of the committee. Stranch is the Tennessee chair and Chalos acts as Federal/State liaison counsel. The plaintiffs’ steering committee anticipates that similar subpoenas will be served in other states affected by the outbreak in the coming days.